A young squad of Badger swimmers will be making their way to the northwest for this year’s NCAA Championships in Federal Way, Wash., this weekend.The men’s swimming team had five swimmers qualify for the championships that will be held today through Saturday at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center. Not one of those five swimmers is a senior; rather, there are three juniors (Scott Rice, Mike Desautels and Kyle Sorensen), a sophomore (Phil Davies) and one freshman (Mitch Buenger) making up the competing Badgers.“Heading into the NCAAs, we are going to try and improve from our showing at last year’s meet,” Badger coach Eric Hansen said.The Badgers have some work to do in Washington. Wisconsin finished 4-3 overall in dual meets this season but went only 1-2 in Big Ten competition, scoring their only victory over Iowa. The last two dual meets of the season were losses to Minnesota and Purdue on the first two days of February.However, Wisconsin does bring some momentum to the NCAAs. In their last high-stakes competition at the Big Ten Championships, Wisconsin finished seventh, one place higher than last year.Moreover, Wisconsin was able to place over No. 16 Penn State with a very strong last day of competition. Scott Rice led the charge on the final day, winning his heat of the 200-yard butterfly, affording him seventh place. And at the end of the day, a relay consisting of Desautels, Sorensen, Davies and Buenger finished fourth in the 400-yard freestyle race.“With all the elite competition, it will be tough to score individually,” Hansen said.”We are going to place a large emphasis on our relays, as they score double points.”The Badgers do bring some tough competitors to Federal Way. Rice finished second twice in Wisconsin’s losing effort at Purdue and had a third place finish versus Minnesota the day after. He will compete in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly events at the NCAAs as well as the 200-yard individual medley. Hansen said that the Badgers would focus on the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays, which would feature the Desautels, Sorensen, Davies and Buenger lineup. Sorensen will swim in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races and compete with Rice in the 100-yard butterfly in addition to his role in Wisconsin’s relays.Davies is also slated to swim in freestyle races, competing with Sorensen in the 50- and 100-yard races. He will also be the only Badger lined up to compete in the 200-yard freestyle. The freshman Buenger is slated to be the anchor of the relays.“It’s kind of a shock,” Buenger said of participating as a freshman in the NCAA Championships with the Badgers.”I’m just trying to follow what the other guys do.”He also described the jump to the NCAAs from high school swimming as “the biggest there is.”Despite Wisconsin’s hopes to wrangle some success in the relays and through a few individual races, the heavy favorite for the National Championship seems to be the University of Texas. The Longhorns are looking to bring in their tenth championship in team history and look apt to do it after their 800-yard freestyle relay shattered American, U.S. Open, and NCAA records at the recent Big 12 Championships with a time of 6:10:55, breaking the old time by over three full seconds. The Longhorns also cruised to their 29th consecutive conference title and are the hot hand heading into the meet.Wisconsin swimmers have seen high levels of competition already in the season and should be ready for what is to come, though.“The Big Ten is a real deep conference,” Buenger said.”We may not have the powerhouses, but it’s real deep.”Wisconsin finished 29th last year in the NCAA and enters this year’s meet in roughly the same position.— UWBadgers.com contributed to this report.
Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jay Tufele knew the second he heard the play call that he was going to make a full effort to block the potential game-tying field goal. “I just get around the guard and go over him and bob swat him,” Tufele said. “I was like ‘hell yeah’ and it was game over.” A blocked field goal and a high-scoring offense helped USC edge Washington State 39-36 in a shootout at the Coliseum on Friday. The Cougars attempted a game-tying 38-yard field goal with under two minutes to play, but Tufele blocked it, handing the Trojans the win and getting them back to .500 on the season. The Trojans edged out the final score thanks to a touchdown by redshirt sophomore running back Vavae Malepeai and a two point conversion to grant them the 3-point lead in the middle of the fourth quarter that would prove to be the final score.The start of the fourth quarter began the shootout with Mater-Dei duo of freshmen quarterback JT Daniels and receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown connected for a 30-yard touchdown to steal the lead early in the fourth. The Cougars responded with a touchdown of their own after converting a 4th-and-one attempt.Marvell Tell breaks free for a gain – Tal Volk | Daily TrojanThe win comes at a crucial point in the Trojans’ season as it returns the team to a .500 record both overall and in conference play. Moreover, the victory comes after two tough losses at the hands of Texas and Stanford.“To be able to get a win at home over a team that’s gonna be a good team this year up [in the Pac-12] North, it was critical for us,” head coach Clay Helton said. “For our confidence and our psyche. To be able to fight back and finish a game in the fourth quarter, it can only build confidence and help your football team.” The Trojans pounced on Washington State early in the first quarter with an energetic rushing drive. In just five plays on the ground, running backs sophomore Stephen Carr and redshirt sophomore Vavae Malepeai drove the Trojans 75 yards to a touchdown only two minutes into the game.Defensive rushes from the outside and pressure over the middle, including two batted passes, aided in the Trojans’ efforts to force fourth down situations. However, the Cougars, notorious for attempting fourth down conversions, were able to find their first touchdown after converting on two consecutive fourth downs.On the offensive front, USC relied on its running backs in the first quarter. The Trojans tallied 68 rushing yards on the ground in the first 15 minutes compared to the Cougars’ six, but WSU’s passing game towered over that of the USC’s by a margin of 43 to six.USC was quick to fire back this time, opting for an aerial route to the end zone after recognizing that the Cougars defense began stop the rush. Daniels connected with redshirt sophomore receiver Velus Jones Jr. on a 44-yard reception. The long gain set up a touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore Tyler Vaughns to give the Trojans a 4-point edge.Daniels said his chemistry is improving with receivers junior Michael Pittman Jr., Jones Jr. and Vaughns. Pittman tallied 72 yards, Vaughns recorded 64 yards along with a team high seven receptions and Jones contributed 48 yards. “We just have more practice time. We’re getting used to each other more,” Daniels said. “I’m learning where they want me to put the ball, and they’re making the plays every time it’s there.” The second quarter saw USC’s more unpolished side. Preventable penalties and errors aided in Washington State’s favorable field position, resulting in a touchdown which extended the Cougars’ lead to 24-14 with 1:39 left in the half. The Trojans attempted to break into the end zone to end the first half but were unable to gain 7 points after three attempts from the eight-yard line — and an incomplete pass to Michael Pittman, whose foot appeared to be on the line in the back of the end zone — and settled with a field goal to close the first 30 minutes trailing 24-17.In the game, Daniels touted 241 yards with three touchdowns compared sophomore quarterback Gardner Minshew II threw for 344 yards with three touchdowns.Tyler Vaughns reaches for a pass in the end zone – Tal Volk | Daily TrojanUSC converted three third downs in the second half, an improvement on their 0-of-4 conversions in the first half.The Trojans delivered in front of a home crowd of 52,421 after falling behind to the Cougars late in the first half. The victory marked the Trojans 18th consecutive win at the Coliseum. “We walk out there with a sense of pride because we are at the Coliseum,” senior linebacker Cameron Smith said. “We know walking by everytime in the tunnel we see guys on our right that are painted on the wall that have played there before us and for me it hits me right in the heart. It feels good to be home. Feels good to get this win and move on from here.” USC will take on Arizona next week in Tucson as Pac-12 play continues. read more